One of the most shocking things about the recent obliteration of the Wedge pack by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife was that even the allegedly pro-wolf environmental group “Conservation Northwest” supported the slaughter. Sure, they had their sound bites about hoping that eliminating entire wolf packs every time there are a few cattle depredations would not become standard practice. But by conceding to the lethal removal of the Wedge wolves (via aerial gunning by helicopter, no less), they helped pave the way for future atrocities.
Conservation Northwest’s stance is comparable to that of the World Wildlife Fund, who recently declined to go as far as Greenpeace in calling for an outright ban on offshore oil drilling in the rapidly-thawing Arctic—they felt their concessions to the wildlife-destructive industry insured them a seat at the bargaining table. I suppose CNW didn’t want to appear extreme, like some radical who might say something such as…
The surest way to keep this kind of canicide from happening again is to get cattle off our national forests. Better yet, abolish ranching altogether (thereby also sparing cows a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the livestock industry). The only way to guarantee you’re not supporting the abuse of cows and the destruction of wolves is to boycott beef. While you’re at it, why not go vegan and spare all animals unnecessary suffering? And of course, if we really want to protect wolves, we should abolish deer and elk hunting.
But the conservation group played it safe and didn’t even come close to mentioning these or any other long-term solutions. I guess they figure it’s better to leave it to the true animal extremists—compassionate people like the folks at Change.org, who added this postscript to their eleventh-hour petition urging the WDFW not to kill the Wedge pack wolves: “That part of the world is “safe” for the burger & steak gluttons once again; no nasty wolves will cut into their meat farming profits.”
Many mainstream environmental groups and their members still cling to the notion of “sustainable” beef. It’s surprising how many people who advocate for wolves eat meat like there’s no tomorrow, comfortable in their rationalization that cows are “domesticated” or “dumb animals” bred for slaughter.
I lived for years in northeast Washington and worked on the Colville National Forest—where the Wedge wolves tried to establish a home. I pity the cows, who are cruelly de-horned, trucked up to the ends of the logging roads and left to fend for themselves on some thistle-covered clear cut with only a drying up creek for water. But as a forestry contractor taking seedling growth and survival surveys, I saw first-hand how the US Forest Service panders to the cattle industry. I routinely found half of the new green growth eaten on young conifers in a tree “plantation” or the whole tree trampled upon by the ever-present bovines, whose wallows and trails further denuded the landscape. A cow pie plopped right on top of a smothered seedling was a common sight.
Yet whenever I pointed out the damage caused by livestock grazing, the forest service representatives would tell me to record it as deer damage. By blaming the native deer and elk, the forest service kills two birds with one stone, so to speak. It lets their cronies in the cattle industry off the hook and serves as fodder for the game department good ol’ boys to help justify expanded hunting seasons.
For the sake of the forests and all who live there, it’s time to remove ourselves from the wildlife equation and leave the predating to the natural predators. Wild animals are not just playthings for sportsmen, and human beings can live much healthier on a plant-based diet, as their primate cousins always have. True carnivores, such as wolves, coyotes, cougars, marine mammals or members of the weasel family have to eat meat to survive. If you’re not willing to go vegan for the sake of the animals you eat, maybe you could at least think of the other animals affected by your bill of fare.
Earlier this month, Mitch Freedman of Conservation Northwest made the nebulous statement, “There needs to be a way for wolves and man to coexist. Wolves were here first.”
There is a way…but it would mean getting the cows off of our National Forests, the sheep out of our Wilderness Areas and putting a stop to the sport of big game hunting.